|At the beginning of the 14th century, Milan is
the most densely populated city in Europe. Young people from the countryside
drop their spades to work as craftmen's boys, attracted by handsome profits.
These are the quarters of goldsmiths, sword-makers, spur-makers, armourers.
The number of inns already amounts to more than 200. The two weekly markets
and the four annual fairs gather crowds of pilgrims trading wool, silk
or cotton pieces.
While the towns are engaging exciting battles for their self-government, with the need for a strong power, the Visconti Seigniory rises, legitimated as Princedom on September 5th, 1395, when Gian Galeazzo is granted the title of Duke by Emperor Venceslao.
In this period of Italian Renaissance the use of the lands made by wealthy and noble landlords, causes the need for rural structures, which can store agricultural produce, and house tenants and farmers; therefore, the Riposteria or the Lainate Farm-house which, bearing a very simple architectural style marked by twin columns, becomes part of the property of the Earl brothers Vitaliano and Giovanni Borromeo around the middle of the 15th century.
Anyway, from the very beginning of the 15th century, Lainate was under the Borromeo rule, and ancient parchments, found in the Ospedale Maggiore archives in Milan, report about several plots of land and farm-houses owned by the Borromeo family since the beginning of 1400.
"Filippo Maria Angelo, Duke of Milan, Earl of Pavia and Angera, as a special favour granted by our Lordship, being our will the satisfaction of wise Vitaliano, we assign, and we bid that, in future times, is assigned to Borromei...." this is the beginning of the deed dated September 14th, 1439, by means of which Visconti gives Vitaliano Borromeo the feud including Arona lands and castle in its entirety, as a reward for his remarkable support, and maybe also for financial funding, which the Borromeo family was now able to provide to Princes and State holders.
The Borromei came from San Miniato (Pisa); the family had gathered great riches thanks to a thick sales network, especially with Venice and Flanders. As early as 1418, Vitaliano is appointed chamberlain of the Duke, then treasurer of Milan, and, finally, of the whole Duchy, with personal interventions, sometimes run with sunk capital. During the following years, the Borromeo will extend the borders of their commercial undertakings, reaching Barcelona and London, increasing in the meantime their considerable property, consequently creating opportunities for new interventions in favour of the Duchy finances. It's not by chance, therefore, that, in 1445 (the deed is dated May, 26th) Vitaliano Borromeo is invested of the title of Earl by Filippo Maria.
The first parchment bearing the name Vitaliano Borromeo (April 27th, 1417), a year after obtaining the citizenship of Milan, certifies the purchasing of buildings, and it reads..."...Vitalianum de Vitalianis dictus de Borromeis filius quendam domimi Joacob...nominatiae de sedime jacens in loco Leynate plebis indicaui ducatus ascripti ubi dicti insulla quod est cum hedifitijs eandis palazijs...". Vitaliano gets several lands from other landlords, in perpetual lease, "in loco Leynate".
The deed dated October 25th, 1422, may well make reference to the area where now the villa is located. In fact, it reads..."...Vitalianus de Borromei filius quondam domini Jacobi...nominatiae de sedimine uno cum cameris solaris, colombarum et pabulum, area orto cassinis brolio et alijs suis juribus et pertinentis iacens in dicto loco Leynate plebis Neruiani ducatus Mediolanis... ". Parchments dated December 8th, 1423 and August 25th, 1427, give us evidences of land purchasings.
Thanks to the document dated January 27th, 1427, which describes Earls Giovanni and Vitaliano Borromeo's appearance in front of Capitano del Seprio, in order to sort out their contrasting claims concerning the ownership "...of possessions in Lainate, its parish and in the parish of Nerviano..." we can define Lainate area and confirm its nature of agricultural estate, the existence of a stable rural shelter used as crop storage and, of course, as home of the "...massarius, colonion, mezadros, inquillinos, fictables, pensionates..." working there.
This shelter may be seen as preceding with respect
to the newer buildings erected in the following centuries.
Vitaliano Borromeo experiences the political troubles connected to the end of the Visconti rule, the rise of the Repubblica Ambrosiana and finally of Francesco Sforza. Anyway he manages to establish a good relationship with them, therefore his rights are confirmed. On March 20th, 1470 Earls Giovanni and Vitaliano Borromeo "with a new feudal investiture", swear loyalty to Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza and Duchess Bona, being thus confirmed in their feudal rights concerning Lainate. As soon as Earls ("comites", companions in arms) Giovanni and Vitaliano Borromeo take the oath of loyalty to the Sforza, the local people, who formerly served the Ospedale Maggiore, become their property.
Close to Naviglio, means of communication and unloading, the Ospedale Maggiore plays the role of a little town within the town - village of "pauperes infirmi"-, especially designed for the Duke of Milan by architect Antonio Averulino, named Filarete (friend of virtue or, according to others, friend of truth). He was the first of the famous Florentine artists Gadio complained about. Gadio was assigned the project and the building of the Magna Domus, "la Ca' Granda", which was intended to gather in the same place the different institutes related to the hospital located in the city, created during the previous centuries thanks to single benefactors.
The Duke's name will always be historically connected to the hospital, which is actually named "sforzesco". But the real origin, i.e. the idea of the hospital, which dates back to eight years before its building, was not conceived during the Sforza rule, but during the republican period, in the three years - 1447-1450 - spanning from the end of the Visconti Seigniory to the rise of the Sforza. The very short Repubblica Ambrosiana faced the problems of social services related to the poverty of the common people living in the city. In order to solve these problems the "captains and guards" of the republic issued an act "pro Hospitalibus et pauperibus alogiandis" and appointed "delegates for the assistance of poor people". The aim is incresing resources, controlling the administration of the existing hospitals and the running of the feudal possessions, where abuses, outrages, and scandals continuously occurred.
The Ospedale Maggiore was therefore conceived as a means of putting together sixteen pre-existing hospitals, seven of which were run by the clergy, one by laymen and eight had a mixed running, with clear interests and benefits. Therefore, it's a real "reform", which gives new rules, establishes new tasks, offices and controls the behaviour of the hospital administrators, practically changing the methods of running hospitals. Assistance is not only seen as a matter of charity, but it also concerns health and fitness. The building of the Ospedale Maggiore is above all a wise move in terms of health policy, which keeps up with the city demands.
The recurrent plague epidemics, since the "great death" in 1348, deeply affected the survival balance of a city, lack of hygiene and an increasing number of poor and sick people were the mirror reflecting newly made riches and fortunes. These strata of people were considered dangerous, not only as carriers of diseases, but also as potential underminers of the established and solid order. The social control on these troubles was possible thanks to the care that the rising classes, through a phylantropic aristocracy and a charitable clergy, devoted to organizations aimed at helping, giving assistance, healing, as well as controlling, watching, preventing.
The hospital reform of the second half of the fifteenth century was not only a matter of bringing together different institutions, unifying properties, gathering incomes, rationalizing expenses, but it also made the hospital organization more suitable to the city and its land, meeting demands which changed during the years.
With the death of Vitaliano I, in 1464, his fortunes pass to his son, Vitaliano II. Since Vitaliano II, who married Bianca of Saluzzo, has no sons, his possessions are intended to pass to his illegitimate son Bernardino, as Vitaliano established in his will drawn in 1493. His brother Giovanni contests the will, defending the rights of his own sons. Lodovico il Moro, who was entrusted to settle the argument, in 1498 decides to designate as sole heir "pleno jure" of Vitaliano II another nephew, Lodovico, son of his sister Giustina, married to Gian Maria Visconti, Lord of Abizzate. With this act Lodovico il Moro, fearing the Borromeo's growing power, forces young Lodovico to bear the double family name of Visconti Borromeo, thus starting this new family branch.
Young Lodovico Visconti Borromeo, Moro's faithful follower even during the crucial 1499, is taken prisoner by the French, and in 1514, when they leave Milan, as a reward for his loyalty to the Sforza, he receives the fief of Brebbia from Massimiliano Sforza.
During the Sixteenth century Milan goes through
a very troubled period in which, under the rule of the Sforza, successors
of the Visconti, French and Spanish power follow one another.